A while back in our Grace Church adult Sunday School class an interesting discussion ensued.
At one point our friend Ben made an astute observation...
Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hall of fame for saints.
It was one of those nod your head moments. Of course – a simple yet perfectly accurate description.
We’ve asked the question before – why do you come to church?
For some it’s just second nature – I’ve always gone to church since childhood.
For others it’s about fellowship, being with others.
But is the real reason more obvious?
We’re sick and we need help, just like you get from a hospital.
Sure, the saints of church history get a lot of attention. They’re like the superheroes of the New Testament.
The Christian Church has been naming saints almost since its formation in the 1st century. Back then, according to sources, martyrs were the first people recognized. These were ones who literally gave their lives for the faith. Think St. Stephen, who was stoned to death for his belief and became the first Christian martyr.
Later the Roman Catholic Church got into the act and really cranked up the saint process. One source estimates that there are now over 10,000 saints and those who have been beatified (or blessed.) That’s one step below saint.
How do you get to be a saint? Here’s where the superhero status comes in.
To be beatified there must be a miracle attributed to someone who has passed into Heaven. Pray to the person, a miracle occurs, and eventually they are beatified.
When two miracles occur in a person’s name it makes them saint status. Superstar.
For our local Catholic friends there’s Kateri Tekakwitha, whose name adorns their church. Kateri was a Native American woman who converted to Christianity in the early days of America.
At some point a miracle was attached to Kateri. After some examination by the Catholic church she was beatified – for years we called her Blessed Kateri.
Then a second miracle was attributed to her. After another examination she made the big leap to the top, and now we (and the local church) call her Saint Kateri.
During her lifetime here do you think Kateri ever aspired to be a saint? Did any of those 10,000? Probably not.
Instead it was all about helping others, inspiring others, consoling others. Spreading the word of God’s grace and blessings to each and every believer. Doing the work of Jesus.
Which brings us back to the sinners. All of the rest of us.
We’re told the flu bug has been especially nasty this year in our region and across the country. Untold thousands have been affected, keeping doctors and clinics plenty busy.
For some people when they get sick they “tough it out.” No medicine or health care for them. They’re tough, they’re independent, and they’ll get over it.
Does that turn out well? In a few cases perhaps it’s fine, but in most cases the person lives in misery for far longer than they would have had they just gone to see the doctor. Or it’s worse in some cases, and those usually make the news headlines.
Don’t “tough out” the flu. Go see your doctor or an urgent care clinic right away.
We all need regular health care to take care of physical problems, prevent ailments and live a better quality of life.
What about your spiritual quality of life?
Too many people ignore this. When something occurs in their life they usually “tough it out,” thinking that they’ll just get over it eventually.
And all the while in every town in America there’s at least one clinic down the street or on the corner that’s waiting for them to check-in for some long overdue healing.
No one on a pedestal there. All are equal in the eyes of God.
And just as the doctor urges patients to come in for regular check-ups and maintenance, our church welcomes regular attendance to maintain good spiritual health.
The door is always open. Like Lucy in the old Peanuts cartoons, the Doctor is In.
Remember Billy Joel’s hit song “Only the Good Die Young?” It has the classic line...
“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun...”
That song caused a lot of consternation in the Catholic church. The lyric probably isn’t fair because the saints surely had plenty of human fun during their lives.
At our Grace Church we seem to have plenty of laughter, sometimes known as the best medicine. A group of sinners, learning and asking for forgiveness from a gracious God.
Remember that no one achieves sainthood until long after they’re dead and gone to Heaven. While we’re on this Earth we’re all sinners and that includes those saints who, like us, had missteps and errors.
Let us always remember the saints for the good things they did and the miracles proscribed to them. But a church is always for the sinners here and now who need the healing messages of the Word of God.
See you at Grace Church Sunday morning? 10:45? Sunday School 9:30? As always you’re welcome and the Doctor will be In.
From George Churchgoer